An etch worth scratching!
-- Turpentine Valley --
Review written by Stijn "Metal Shredder" Daneels.
[METAL SHREDDER REPORTING]
Late 2018 I attended the second edition of the Zingem Beeft metal festival. While the event featured established Belgian metal acts like Hexa Mera, Ironborn and Signs of Algorithm the event’s opening band, Turpentine Valley, did leave quite a positive impression on me with their simple but powerful post-metal style, further augmented by the soft candle lights which drenched the venue in a dreamy atmosphere! Last month I saw the band perform again, this time at Grimm Gent’s Jeugdhuis Asgaard and once again I was quickly dragged into Turpentine Valley’s post-metal dream world. And now, my friends at Hard Life Promotion provided me with the band’s debut album. Needless to say, my Shredder claws are sharpened up!
“Etch” is the debut album from the Belgian post-metal band Turpentine Valley and is released by my neighboring record label Dunk!Records (yeah, their HQ is only 7 or so kilometers from where I live). The band was formed in 2016 but its members have gathered plenty of earlier band playing experiences in the past, both individually and collectively.
Turpentine Valley’s sound is self-described as pure post-metal and that’s a description I can certainly agree with. “Etch” features classic post-metal inspired by the likes of Russian Circles, Deftones and more, filled with melodic guitar riffs, grinding bass lines and galloping drums. None of the songs have vocals and that allows the other instruments to thoroughly shine. And they damn sure shine! Turpentine Valley’s style mainly consists of howling main riffs layered over by additional guitars, bass and drums of varying speeds and intensities. The music creates a dreamy setting which at times floats around in peace and harmony and at others crashes down with raw metal fury. One exception is the short intermission “Ballast,” which features screeching electronic tunes along with a gentle guitar humming in the background.
I’d say Turpentine Valley’s biggest strength aside from the dream/nightmarish atmosphere is their sense of pacing. The band perfectly switches between soft, psychedelic melodies and heavy pounding beats at just the right moments, effectively building up to the heavy parts and afterwards cooling everything down by gradually deconstructing the earlier furious beats.
The song titles on “Etch” are kept short, simple and vague with names like “Compromis,” “Ballast,” “Trauma” and “Compassie” and this combined with the vocal-less delivery gives the songs plenty of room for self-interpretation and so does the album’s artwork. With the pitch black front cover and white snow (maybe it’s a distorted TV-screen) and the flock of birds circling around (I assume they are birds). Hey, maybe this album’s cover is some kind of Rorschach test! I wouldn’t be surprised, given the sheer musical and visual ambiguity this album evokes.
[SHARPEST SHREDS & BLUNTEST BLADES]
I’m going with the album’s single, “Trauma.” It’s such a smooth sounding tune with the crunching bass (acting as the song’s main riff), the highly expressive guitar melodies (that kind of feel like vocals) and the echoing drum beats. I’ve always been a sucker for rippling bass so this song quickly grew on me and the other aforementioned elements make this song all the more epic. And to top it all off, this song is 8-minutes long. It’s not easy to keep me interested in long songs but “Trauma” sure gets the job done!
Another personal favorite on the album is the song “Compromis.” I love the track’s opening marching rhythms that gradually transitions to a very meditative tickling before going back to the heavy pounding. So, do I have anything negative to say about the album? Well, “Etch” is available on vinyl and via Bandcamp but not on CD. Such as shame, I would’ve loved to buy this on a sweet silver disc. In any case, I give Turpentine Valley’s “Etch” …
8 black holes out of 10. I admit that releases like Turpentine Valley’s debut album ignite my appetite for the post-metal subgenre. The album has a mysterious and seductive sound that proofs how less can sometimes be so much more! Well-recommended to all post-lovers out there! Here’s one hell of a “Trauma!”